The 51st NAACP Image Awards took place over the weekend in Pasadena, California, where Congressman John Lewis was honored with the NAACP Chairman’s Award. The Award is bestowed in recognition of individuals who demonstrate exemplary public service and use their distinct platforms to create agents of change. Past honorees of the Chairman’s Award include then-Senator Barack Obama, Former Surgeon General Regina, and last year’s recipient Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
During his acceptance speech, Chairman Lewis said, “the NAACP inspired me to get in good trouble, necessary trouble, to try to change America.” He goes on to say, “The NAACP has been like a bridge over troubled waters; we are going to have some more troubled waters, we need the NAACP now more than ever before.” Leon W. Russell, Chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, recognized Congressman Lewis during the LIVE TV special on BET.
The advocacy displayed at the 51st image Awards did not end with the honoring of Congressman Lewis. NAACP president and CEO, Derrick Johnson spoke on how positive representation is essential for our youth before awarding Rihanna with this year’s President’s Award. “Positive representation across entertainment and the arts has the power to shape perceptions and change communities,” said president Johnson. “How people see us on the screen can affect how people see us in the street. By projecting a positive picture of who we are as black people, both in front of and behind the camera, we can truly make progress and uplift communities.”
During her acceptance speech, Rihanna urged our allies to show up and stand up. “How many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other races, religions, sexes — show of hands?” she said. “Well then, you know, they want to break bread with you, right? Do they like you? Well then, this is their problem too. So when we are marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jrs. and the Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up.”
The NAACP also aired a PSA during the show numerous times urging viewers to participate in the 2020 Census and the importance of the Power of 5. Actor Larenz Tate was shown in the announcement emphasizing the importance of the Power of 5 saying, “Together we can fight for policies that respect and improve our communities. Help us change our country for the better with the Power of 5.” Text POWER to 40649 for more information on the Power of 5.